Newcastle United will enter 2016 in the Premier League relegation zone after a mistake from rookie goalkeeper Karl Darlow cost them a 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion.
Darlow, whose only previous Newcastle appearance was in the Capital One Cup, was thrown in for a top-flight debut shortly before kick-off after Rob Elliott withdrew because of sickness.
The Hawthorns seemed on course for a 0-0 draw – the crossbar was struck at each end and several chances squandered – but Darlow allowed a late Darren Fletcher headed to slip under his body.
Victor Anichebe was preferred to the out-of-favour Saido Berahino in Albion’s attack and almost gave his side a third-minute lead when his effort had to be cleared off the line by Fabricio Coloccini.
Darlow, a 2014 signing from Nottingham Forest – got a confidence-boosting save under his belt early on as James Morrison let fly from range, but looked unsteady under the high ball throughout.
Fletcher would be denied twice before the break by a combination of Darlow and last-ditch Newcastle defending, as the Baggies pushed forward in search of a first win in six top-flight matches.
But it was Steve McClaren’s visitors who should have gone in front after the restart as Paul Dummett headed against the crossbar, and Coloccini struck the post during a frantic passage of play.
West Brom maintained the greater attacking threat, but needed a slice of luck to get the winning goal as Fletcher got on the end of Claudio Yacob’s cross to sneak his header through the distraught Darlow.
The 25-year-old showed good character to deny substitute Berahino Albion’s second moments later, but the Magpies could not rescue a point and remain in the bottom three heading into the New Year.
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